Sony BRAVIA KDL-55EX720 3D LED TV

Sony’s cheapest 3D LED TV has good picture quality for a reasonable price

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Sony BRAVIA KDL-55EX720
  • Sony BRAVIA KDL-55EX720
  • Sony BRAVIA KDL-55EX720
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Low price (even lower on sale)
  • Good picture quality

Cons

  • Minor loss of detail in default settings
  • Minor LED backlight bloom

Bottom Line

Sony's middle-of-the-pack EX720 has all the bells and whistles of more expensive models, apart from Wi-Fi (a $99 extra). In its default settings, picture quality is OK rather than great, but some minor changes can dramatically improve video at the expense of some brightness. Teamed with a Blu-ray player and a dark room, the Sony BRAVIA EX720 can display crisp and vibrant video.

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The Sony BRAVIA EX720 is the cheapest LED TV series in Sony’s lineup that can display 3D video. It has good picture quality specs — an impressive contrast ratio and 200Hz refresh rate — but it requires significant picture adjustment to look its best. If you can hook it up to a Blu-ray player with some good Full HD video content, it looks great in a dark room.

Sony BRAVIA KDL-55EX720: Design and features

Sony’s BRAVIA KDL-55EX720 has a thin, dark brushed aluminium strip running along its lower bezel, while the other edges of the screen are finished in glossy black. It’s not too different from Sony’s more premium models, the HX925 and HX820, although both of these have glossier and more attractive finishes on their screens. The BRAVIA EX720 is shiny as well, so if possible it’s best located in a dark or dim room without any direct lighting — curtains are a must.

Sony has loaded the BRAVIA EX720 up, like almost all other models in the company’s 2011 TV lineup, with all its BRAVIA Internet Video services. Hook the TV up to an Ethernet network connection, or buy the $99 Sony Wi-Fi Internet TV adapter, and you can instantly access a wide variety of streaming video — everything from YouTube, to QuickFlix movies on demand, to ABC iView and SBS catch-up shows. The range of content means that there’s usually something new, even if you don’t want to pay for a movie, so you can switch to Internet video whenever there’s nothing good on free-to-air digital TV. Sony’s Qriocity Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited services are also built-in, as is Facebook and Twitter access.

Sony BRAVIA KDL-55EX720: Picture quality

We set the BRAVIA KDL-55EX720 up in a bright, fluorescent-lit room and watched free-to-air digital TV as well as Full HD 24p Blu-ray video through a Sony BDP-S580. In its default settings the BRAVIA EX720 has contrast set too high — whites are bright and blacks are dark, but a lot of detail is missing. At the same time, colours are too vibrant and the picture is overly sharp.

Once we moved the EX720 to a darker area, we adjusted screen settings in the Custom picture mode, tweaking gamma, white balance and colour saturation as well as brightness and backlight power. What we ended up with was a much more detailed, if slightly less punchy and darker picture. If we were watching movies on the Sony BRAVIA KDL-55EX720 we’d definitely take the time to adjust the picture, as video looked more detailed and of a higher quality while also being less fatiguing to watch.

As a 200Hz panel, the Sony BRAVIA KDL-55EX720 handles motion well. We used the Clear Plus mode in our dark room (it lowers screen brightness when used in a brighter setting) and found free-to-air TV to be clean without any visible video break-up or stuttering. Similarly, we gave the EX720 a run with the Planet Earth Blu-ray, as well as 720p episodes of the new Frozen Planet, and found all panning shots and fast motion to be clear — including on the edge of the screen, where last year’s Sony TVs struggled to maintain clarity. Only on a few instances of very fast-moving sport — a recording of the Formula One on One HD, for example — did we see any interlacing or frame interpolation issues.

Especially in its default settings, the Sony BRAVIA EX720 suffers from minor backlight cloudiness, where some edges of the screen and screen corners are brighter than the screen centre. This is a problem that almost all edge-lit LED TVs suffer, and the BRAVIA EX720 certainly isn’t the worst offender that we’ve seen. This can be minimised by watching in a dark or dim room and turning the backlight down (as you should be whenever possible anyway).

Sony BRAVIA KDL-55EX720: Conclusion

If you can watch it in a darkened room, and have the time to play around with screen settings to find the best compromise between detail and brightness, Sony’s BRAVIA EX720 is an impressively-featured TV for the asking price. Christmas sales should make it better value again.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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